generating electricity with the coriolis effect

Yeah – another mad idea…

The “Coriolis effect” is quite simple to understand when you think about it.

Imagine a big wheel balanced on its axis, some place other than at the equator. It is easier to imagine this by exagerrating the size – make the wheel quite large, and the world a few times larger than the wheel in your imagination.

Now, imagine what happens at the north end and the south end as the world turns.You can measure the distance that the ends travel by measuring from either end to the axis of the planet, then multiplying by 2*pi.

You might imagine that balancing a wheel on its axis doesn’t make any difference to how far it travels, but… when the wheel is balanced on its axis, the north end is closer to the axis of the planet than the south end, meaning that the north end actually travels less than the south end!

Of course, the various laws of conservation of momentum, angular velocity, etc, come into play then, and you will find that the wheel will turn slightly to compensate for the difference in distance between the north and south! (I have not tested this, but in my imagination, it works perfectly)

So, my idea is this – attach a generator to the axis of the wheel, and you get free energy! You will of course need to attach some gears to the axis to make the Coriolis motion usable.

Note that the wheel does not need to be flat against the earth – in fact, the most optimal angle would be such that the wheel is perpendicular to the axis of the earth.

Your Mileage May Vary.


  1. You sir, are well and truly nuts!

    I’ve had a few thoughts about creating my own perpetual motion machine, but it all boiled down to friction and how the machine would eventually stop unless it was actually running in a true vacuum and far away enough from any other body so that gravity didn’t affect it either…

    Unfortunately, these sort of ideas tend to work amazingly in the mind, but very poorly when implemented 🙁

    (btw. how are you finding “Thud!”?)

  2. must update those books 😉 I’m reading Dean Koontz’s Velocity at the moment. Thud ruled – I like how Pratchett keeps on expanding the character of the world. To imagine the king of trolls as a damned bright fellow (literally) – brilliant.

    On the friction aspect. I did actually think of that, and yes, it would make the idea unfeasible for low-mass wheels, but a large-mass wheel would probably work. Thinking about it, I figure that the wheel would turn almost exactly once per day in a non-friction environment (ignoring fiddly-stuff like “inertial frame-dragging”, etc). So, the wheel must be heavy enough to overcome a frictional force of …blah – maths… Anyway – I think it’s possible.

  3. I’ve just started “Thud!”, yesterday in fact. Finished reading “Going Postal” earlier that day! Also, I’ve noticed that your commenting system doesn’t seem to be working correctly. Even though there are comments for many of your posts, the summary says “no responses”/”no comments” for all of the recent ones…

  4. While it seems like it would work, the energy would not be free. You would actually be taking the energy away from the Earth’s rotation and thereby slowing it down…

  5. well, yeah – I do understand that – I meant “free” as in “doesn’t cost any euro beyond the setting up”, like solar power or wind power.

    actually, thinking of wind power – for a while, I thought that retrieving energy from the wind would slow the wind down until eventually there wasn’t any, but of course that was before I understood that a lot of the wind is actually caused by the Coriolis effect. so, in effect, even the wind power generators have the slowing of the earth as a side-effect (although in a more second-hand manner).

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